Voices will always hold a special place in my life. Special for the people I met there, the friends I made, the million things I learnt, the journey from being technologically challenged to understanding bits & pieces of it, writing editorials for issues, doing the much needed PR, the Centenary conference and the complete experience of being a Voicean!
During the course of those years, had various opportunities to interact with Prof. Balaram. Had a similar opportunity recently to interview him for the IISc Alumni Global Conference Souvenir. The conference began today. As a member of the Publicity commitee and spearheading the SMC media liaisoning during the conference, am looking forward to hectic 4 days!!
Taking a few minutes to post the interview piece with Balaram Sir.
“Plan for the next 100 years, said the Institute Alumni”.
- In Conversation with Padma Bhushan Prof. P.Balaram, Former Director, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
The infrastructural modernization that we all have witnessed in the institute in the last few years has been made possible with tenacious efforts on part from the administration, the faculty, the alumni and the government. Being at the forefront of it and helping the institute make that blueprint a reality, Prof. P.Balaram, former Director, Indian Institute of Science shares with us his thoughts about the infrastructural modernization and the new campus at Challakere.
The seed for the infrastructural modernization program was sown back in 2005, when the Finance Minister announced a grant of 100 crores to the institute during the budget. With a team of faculty members, Prof. P. Balaram and Prof. N. Balakrishnan set out to write an infrastructural modernization plan budgeted at 700 crores, to upgrade facilities and labs across the campus. Following several dialogues with the government, the fund was released and it set the foundation for the work to begin. Prof. Balaram says that what worked for the institute was the goodwill and respect that it had earned over the years in bureaucratic and political circles and we must not lose that in the future days.
A holistic approach was adopted, starting with a biodiversity study by Prof. Rohini Balakrishnan and her students from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, at the behest of Prof. Balaram. The new plan ensured that all heritage buildings were left untouched; the ecological balance was maintained and new buildings were built keeping the modern ethos in mind. The new buildings like the Centenary Guest House also helped define the land boundaries of the campus, to ensure that land encroachment incidents like in the 1960s and 70s were avoided.
The modernization plan was embraced with great vigour by several departments like Aerospace, Physics, Biological Sciences and CeNSE; while other departments took time to warm up to the idea. The achievement lies in the fact that perceptions of faculty changed over time; in the last ten years, every department on campus has modernized its facilities and labs. The trickle effect has had an overall impact in making the campus more modern, facilities wise.
When asked about the Challakere campus which marks a new chapter for the Institute, Prof. Balaram shared the important role that the alumni played in this regard. Recalling fondly the Centenary celebrations, he cites how the alumni with their deep emotional bond to the institute want it to always be there; become bigger, better and more famous. “Centenary is the time when the institute must plan for the next 100 years, said the institute alumni and with their broader view of things, they also stressed the importance of a new campus”, recalls Prof. Balaram.
During the centenary, the State government also got closely involved and about 1500 acres was given to the institute. Challakere will be the research campus that will house large facilities, an air strip and also labs that require machines that cannot be housed in the current campus. As India requires much larger research facilities in the near future, the need is for a symbiotic existence of a large piece of land, infrastructural strength and intellectual capacities. In his closing remarks, Prof. Balaram states how the new campus must look at the next 10-15 years: not inwardly, but at the world and raise the bar and redefine the role that the Indian Institute of Science can play in the world research arena.